Why Interface Management Is Critical in Capital Projects Delivery?

By nature, capital projects delivery involves different entities for which each have part of the project’s scope to deliver. For example, multiple contractors and subcontractors could be part of a specific project or even a program delivery. An interface is the place at which independent systems meet or communicate with each other. For example, flange connection details, cable connections, valve connections among many others.

What is Interface Management?

Interface management is the control and oversight of interactions and information flow between the major contracting parties on projects. With the increased complexity of today’s capital projects, the need for interface management has really became a must. A project can typically have in the range hundreds, if not thousands of interfaces to manage.

Effective management of the interfaces will facilitate good communication and transparency across these boundaries and allow each party to request, offer or exchange data and technical information in the best interest of the Project. Interface management is one of the formal communication processes that a project would have.

Technology and Interface Management

Interface management can not be managed in isolation of the many other processes needed to manage a project. Those include processes for project controls, engineering management, quality management, HSE management, contract administration and management, change control and management, procurement management, risk and issues management, communication and document management, commissioning management and handover management.

Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb provides a collaborative environment that allows all contracting parties on a project to participate in interface management, providing the visibility and tracking needed to mitigate project risk when it comes to interfaces. All parties have the information they need to complete the required interfaces on time, and all parties are aware of roles and responsibilities. The same applies to all other project management processes that are needed to manage the project life cycle.

The Interface Manager (IM)

Each entity involved in the project delivery shall nominate a representative as “Interface Manager” to act as a single point of contact for a scope package or for the entity as an overall. The Interface Manager will have a support team, which consists of discipline engineers who will support and assist the Interface Manager in preparing and responding to queries. Interface Manager of each entity has overall responsibility for implementation and maintenance of the interface management process throughout the project life cycle.

Interface Point

Interface Point (IP) is a contact point where two or more entities, for example contractors, come together. Most often deal with physical interfaces but can also include commercial or regulatory interfaces. Physical interfaces include for example flange connection details, cable connections, valve connections among many others. Interfaces could be also for civil works such as roads, interfaces for paving, cable trenches, electrical and instrumentation interfaces

There are Internal and External interfaces. Internal interfaces are those interfaces between disciplines, or within work area of contractors’ responsibility whereas external interfaces are those interfaces between scope packages. Internal interfaces include Technical, Physical, Logistical, Commercial, Organizational interfaces.

In addition, interfaces can be grouped into two types, tangible or intangible. Tangible or hard interfaces, have a physical connection such as a structural steel connection, pipe termination, or cable connection, tie-in to existing facility whereas intangible or soft interfaces, involve the exchange of information such as design criteria, clearance requirements or utility needs between delivery teams.

The project’s integrated master schedule, which include the work schedule for all entities or contractors, should include all interface points as activities. This will help in determining the need dates for those interfaces, the allotted duration to complete the interfaces agreements, and their criticality to the project’s completion milestone dates. They will also identify the preceding and succeeding activities for each interface. Those activities will be part of the schedule activities imported to PMWeb to make them available for Interface Agreements.

Interface Agreement

The Interface Agreement (IA) contains interface information and “Need Date” by which the interface data to be made available for resolution. The IA shall be the only recognized document for the sharing the interface information between all parties. Interface Agreements will be used to document and track the exchange of information and deliverables between contractors that are part to an interface. Interface Agreements are created and tied to an Interface Point.

PMWeb custom form builder will be used to create the Interface Agreement form. The form will capture the details of the interface point activity, IBS (Interface Breakdown Structure), phase, discipline, system, location, type and other particulars of the IA. It will include the title of the IA along with detailed description of the IA as stated by the originating party and the response by the responding party. Additional fields can be added depending on the project requirements.

Most of the fields in the Interface Agreement form will be available from a list of predefined values that is specific for the organization as well as the project being managed. For example, for the Phase field, the predefined list will include Design, Procurement, Construction, Pre-Commissioning, Commissioning and Closeout. The same will apply for WBS, IBS, Location, Type, Discipline, System, Nature among others.

Interface Agreement Documents

Documents such as drawings, tests, certificates among others will be needed for each interface agreement. It is recommended to have an interface management filing system that is aligned to what is known as the Interface Breakdown Structure (IBS). The IBS will have the project as level 1, work package as level 2, interface point as level 3 and interface agreement as level 4. For each interface agreement, all documents will be uploaded under its own specific folder. This will ensure that all documents are properly captured and stored.

PMWeb document management repository will be used to upload and store all documents needed for each interface agreement. PMWeb allows the entity to create folders and subfolders to match the IBS. In addition, it is recommended to enable the “subscribe to RSS notifications” for each IA folder as this will send email notifications to the subscribed users whenever documents/revisions are added, documents are checked in/out, documents are moved out/deleted and documents are downloaded. Of course, it all maintain all versions of uploaded documents.

Those uploaded documents will become available to be attached to each Interface Agreement. In addition, those involved in the interface agreement process can link other relevant PMWeb records to the IA form such as interface meetings, daily reports, action reports, correspondence and any other type of project communication that is relevant to the IA. In addition, email communications which were imported to PMWeb can be linked to the IA similar to other project communications.

Interface Agreement Workflow

PMWeb workflow will be used to manage interface agreements. Interface Agreements can be created and initiated by the Interface Manger or by the technical contacts supporting the interface manager on the project. In either case, the agreement must be reviewed and approved by the Interface Manager of both the requesting and responding party.

The interface team input for each workflow step for each IA will be captured during the execution of the IA process. All those comments and team input will become available to review and report on. PMWeb will capture the date and time those comments to maintain a complete audit trail for each IA.

Interface Data Register (IDR)

The IDR is a consolidated real-time list that records the status of current Interface Agreements (IA) identified with assigned action for each IA within the parties. The IDR is reviewed within Interface Managers on prescribed time frequency in meetings. The layout of the IDR can be fully customized by the organizations to display the needed details. For example, it can be designed to display Project ID, WBS Level, IBS, Package Title, IP Activity ID and Title, Originating Contracting Party, IA No., IA Title, Phase, Description, Responding Contracting Party, Status, Need Date and Close Date.

Interface Meetings

The PMWeb meeting minutes module will be used to capture the interface management Kick‐Off ‐meeting, and then the regularly scheduled Weekly Interface Meetings. The attendees for those clients could include participants from the Client(s), Project Management Consultant, Engineering Consultant, Contractors, Vendors, Discipline Leads and concerned attendees as required. During those meetings, a review outstanding interface issues, which are available in the IDR, agree on means to resolve issues, set new target dates or revise, record action items with due dates.

Interface Management Dashboard

The Interface Management Dashboard provides real-time status and performance reporting of all interface management processes. The dashboard will include the list of interface points that are due in the next 6 weeks, list of delayed interface agreements, visuals on the performance trends of interface agreements among others. The dashboard will quickly highlight any areas or interfaces which require immediate attention. For example, in the case of the Early Warning dashboard, interface agreements that have their status as red is bad. Those are overdue interface agreements that should be looked at and closed.

Conclusion

Interface Management should be part of every project management plan. In the past, interface management was limited to complex mega capital projects mainly in the oil and gas sector. Nevertheless, no project regardless of its size or type will be free of interfaces between the different entities of the contract. Failing to manage those interfaces in a structured, integrated and comprehensive process will create many risks for the project owner who needs all project components and systems to function as one integrated facility regardless of the entity who completed which component. PMWeb provides an integrated web-enabled platform that can enforce the implementation of interface management, as well as the many other project management processes, across the complete project life cycle stages.